Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cartoon 27: Rest in this WildLife

One of my favorite things to do during my time with America Latina Cooperativa was to hang my head out of the window of the motorhome as we travel just letting the landscape wash over me.  I could feel the stress of traveling, of learning so much so fast, of meeting so many people with incredible and intense stories and of living a rather intense one myself wash away as my eyes glided over the awe inspiring lush lush nature of Mexico and Central America.  In Mexico we met a caterpillar (pictured in the bottom right hand side of the drawing) that was unbelievable!! He was the size of an elongated hotdog with bright yellow and black strips and his belly was brilliant red-orange!  As we drove down, I watched the incredible beauty fly by, taking in the deep deep greens and watching the flowering trees change from yellow to orange to red on our way toward Costa Rica. In Nicaragua we met these amazing trees that actually weren't trees but groups of vines that had surrounded a tree and taken it over leaving only the vines in the shape of a tree. Wow! 

Now I have parted with the folks from America Latina Cooperativa.   We became a family for three months of intense work, accompanying each other in every part of our lives. Sharing with folks in the different communities living incredible stories, seeing things that someone from where I´m from was never meant to see.  As my gramma would say, what a priveledge. I read a great quote the other day, ´Life is not about finding ourselves, it´s about creating ourselves.´ This trip has continued to create me in a million new ways, and I just keep watching the rolling mountains that remind me that no matter what I´m going through, the capacity of life is just so so huge that the stress just isn´t that important. It´s time to go home for a Rest in this Wild Life...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cartoons 26.1, 26.2, 26.3: Things That Are Crazy Different in Latin America Thus Far

 Going to the bathroom is wow different depending on where you are here. Basically everywhere public, there are no seats on the toilets and either you bring your own paper or you have to pay to use the potty and they give you paper.  Then you throw the used paper in the trash can beside the toilet.  I don´t quite get how but for real it usually doesn´t stink.  Then in a lot of rural places, you are given a bucket of water that you dump into the toilet bowl which makes the waste go down.  It has taken me about two years to figure out the necessary angle and velocity you have to pour the water with to create the vacuumy force that sucks the poo down.  I must confess I´ve had some sh%&ty experiences in the learning process ha! (Okay sorry that was way obvious but a girls gotta find a way to laugh about learning curves that include unpleaseant splashes yuuuuck!) 
Moving on... there is much less privacy around going to the bathroom in my experience here. One place we stayed the house was basically a cement box and there was barely a curtain between me on the pot and everyone else.  It´s really good though because it´s forced me to release a lot of shame that I´ve had around the natural processes of my body.  I used to not even want my boyfriend of five years to hear me pee.  Now, Joaquin, my most recent boyfriend, used to call me ´Little Moon´ after one of the many times he came to be my lookout as I exposed my round pale booty to the moonlight. :)

The showering system is also pretty different.  A lot of times there´s no separation between the shower space and the sink and toilet.  Its kinda handy to have the toilet there so I can sit down down and wash my feet :) But I can´t seem to figure out how not to soak everything in the bathroom while showering.  I think I´ve seen like two tubs since I´ve been here, seems that houses generally don´t have them. And there are a couple of different systems that I´ve seen for heating the water:
1. Turn on a small gas-powered hot water heater about 20 minutes before you wanna shower and then turn it off before you get in.  You have about 5 to 10 minutes of hot water so you´d better be fast!!
2.   There is an electrical heating device attached to the showerhead that heats the water as it comes through.  Definitely the most efficient but the water pressure has to be pretty low for this method too work.
There´s lots of conciousness about saving water here cuz, well, they can´t just consume to their hearts content.  One time when we were living in San Cristobal (Chiapas, Mexico), we went without running water for like a week in a middle class apartment in a good sized town.  We caught rain water to flush the toilets and wash the dishes.  From what I understand, the government sends enough water to fill the storage tank generally located on the roof of the house and if it runs out before they decide to put more in, you´d better hope you´re resourceful.  I almost got cussed out one time at a Circus Convention using the public shower.  I didn´t turn the water off at any point during my shower and a girl yelled, "Hey, we turn off the water when we soap up!!!!" I can definitely understand the woman´s frustation with me being that in the US we consume like 70% of the resources taken from the earth each day....oh dear...
Hmmmm, other miscellaneous stuff...the lights go out like once a month, heating and air doesn´t exist in most places- folks just put on more clothes or take them off as the case may be... oh yeh! This is kind of random but one of my favorite things in Mexico is that when you walk into or out of a restaurant, you almost always address the other people in the place by saying, "Probecho!" which means "Enjoy!" Cool right?

The last thing I just have to share is something I kind of touched on in Cartoon 23.  People are so frigin' generous!!! One time I was in the plaza in San Cristobal helping Joaquin and Daniel after a show and a woman came up to congratulate us on our work.  I thanked her and then I complimented her earrings and she said "You like them? Take them!" And she took them out of her ears and gave them to me.  And then she continued to invite us to her home on the beach if we ever wanted to get out of the city! And she meant it too. 
At parties, often people just buy a cajuama, a big bottle of beer, and pass it around the party.  You let yours go and within 5 minutes another one circulates back to you.  Pretty much everytime you go to someone´s house even just for a moment, they offer you food and drink.  Countless people that we´ve stayed with have offered to lend us their bikes or cars whenever we need them without even asking about our skills as riders and drivers, little do they know I crash at least once everytime I get on a bike :) 
Many times I´ve told people about the trip that I´m on and they offer to take to lunch just because they know that moving from place to place without a steady stream of finance can be tough.  And people are also way generous with their time.  In fact they often laugh when I say the phrase "Thank you for your time". "My time?", they say, "Time is not mine."   When asking for directions, people are generally so helpful and will often say "You know what, I´ll just take you there!" I see endless support for social projects too, people just pitch in when they see good work being done.  This kind of brings me to a topic I´m going to explore in one of my next cartoons but let me not get ahead of myself.  I´ll just finish up today by sending out a ginormous shout out to the people of Mexico and Central America..."THANK YOU!!!!"

Cartoon 25: Inspiration

Sardinal, Costa Rica.  This man is from a community in Costa Rica where a big transnational company came in about ten years ago and tried to buy up the land for access to the crystalline waters there.  I´ve learned that this is done all the time in the places that I´ve visited of Mexico and Central America by big transnational companies like CocaCola. Yikes. It´s ugly.  The company promised that they wanted to put in a piping system to make water more accessible to residents so some sold their land. The company began to build and as the project advanced it became terribly obvious that the water would not be accessible to the community, it would be used for foreign interests.  The community came together and with sticks and stones and their bodies and protest and perserverance they sent the transnational hiking.  The company was 70% finished with building and they fought brutally to maintain the project but eventually they were forced to leave.  The community had no one funding their efforts, no academic strategists choreographing their actions.  They had necessity and unity.

So now whenever I feel too small, overwhelmed by the injustices committed by those with financial or social power way more complex and established than mine, I have these people to think of. Whenever I feel like I could never have an effect inside of a broken system that has such momentum, I can think of them, a direct connection to the love, fire and determination and that it takes to risk everything for what you and your community know is just. They are a true inspiration for all my life.